By Joel Curtis


While it may be more difficult to interact with others if you have hearing loss, that doesn’t mean it is impossible to engage in a conversation with them. You don’t necessarily need a hearing aid to improve communication with others, what you need is a simple lifestyle change and the confidence to help make things easier for you.

Here are some key tips on how to communicate better despite hearing loss.


Don’t be afraid to tell others about your hearing loss


There’s nothing wrong with telling others about your hearing loss. Simply making other people aware of your hearing loss can provide you with some peace of mind and help you feel more comfortable when communicating with them.


  • If you let others know about your hearing loss, they will be more inclined to communicate with you carefully. They will now look at you more, especially when you are talking, and will talk more slowly when it’s their turn.
  • Letting others know will also help you in case you miss a word or get confused in the middle of a conversation, they will understand that it’s due to hearing loss and not because you are not paying attention to them.


Use your eyes effectively


Just because you have hearing loss, it doesn’t mean that you can’t engage in conversations. You still have your eyes that you can use to understand what the conversation is all about.


  • Get as close as possible to the person who’s speaking and make sure you can clearly see their lips. Lip reading is one of the most effective ways you can communicate if you have challenges hearing.
  • Don’t start conversations with someone from another room, or across the room.
  • Don’t pretend that you understand something even though you didn’t hear it properly (bluffing).
  • Also, it’s important to let those you’re communicating with that you can’t hear everything, especially if it’s really noisy.


Keep track of the conversation


Although it’s hard to keep track of a conversation when you have hearing loss, you can still do it if you can pay attention.


  • If possible, try asking the person speaking to repeat what he/she just said. This will allow you to be sure that you’re keeping up with the conversation and will save you from embarrassment later on.
  • Avoid saying “what” or “huh,” when you missed something. You can instead try to be more specific with what you missed in a conversation.
  • Avoid asking the speaker to repeat everything he/she just said, just try to gather the parts that you found difficult to understand.
  • Be more specific about what you need or want. If the conversation is too fast or if the speaker is speaking way too softly, you can ask your conversation partner to slow down a bit or speak louder so you can follow them properly.


You have to deal with the noise


It becomes more challenging for people with hearing loss to keep track of a conversation especially if there’s too much noise or two or more people are speaking simultaneously.


  • Public places provide a challenging situation for people with hearing loss. Public parks, noisy restaurants, or other places with noisy crowds should be avoided as much as possible because you’ll find it difficult to be able to communicate properly with other people if there’s too much noise.
  • If you can’t avoid the noise, try to sit in front of the person you want to hear and get as close to him/her so you can do lip reading.


Get hearing aids and wear them always


Hearing aids are arguably the most helpful device for people with hearing loss. They allow people with hearing loss to listen better, communicate better, and participate more in different activities.


  • hearing aid in earIt’s important to note, however, that hearing aids are not capable of restoring your hearing back to normal.
  • Hearing aids are devices designed to improve your hearing by making sound audible to people who are hearing-impaired.
  • With hearing aids, you can now hear sounds that may have been inaudible before, such as doorbells ringing, the sound of the water running, the birds singing outside, etc.


Always be patient


You can’t be frustrated with yourself because of your hearing loss. You have to learn to be patient with yourself if you really want to communicate better with others. The same can also be said with your friends, family, loved ones, etc. who know of your hearing loss. They must also be understanding when talking to you.


  • Try not to get frustrated when you find it difficult to communicate with someone. Remind yourself that you are able to communicate, don’t let your hearing loss get the best of you.
  • Discuss any issues you come across with your friends and family, they’re your support system and they’ll be able to provide you with suggestions or additional help when you’re in situations where communication is difficult.


Anyone with hearing loss still has the ability to communicate better with other people. It all depends on the person  and what strategy he/she is going to use.

Look for ways to help improve your hearing and make communication better with other people. If possible, you should seek treatment and counseling from a qualified professional to discuss all of your available options for hearing improvement.




Joel Curtis is a registered Psychologists with Endeavour Wellness and has over 17 years of experience. Joel holds a Masters’ Degree in Psychology from Western Sydney University. Joel owns a number of private practices in Sydney, Australia and provides expert content for several national TV and Radio programs.



*title image courtesy flckr

During counseling with a patient the other day I was asked to explain briefly the difference between hearing, listening, and understanding. The request was, “Make it easy and simple for me so when I talk to my family I can educate them about the differences, how these terms relate to my hearing loss and how these should be interpreted by me and my family and friends now that I wear hearing aids.”  

The request was somewhat related to her sensorineural hearing loss expectations, but even more to her desire to be able to identify the differences when interacting with others. I found this to be an interesting insight into the rehabilitation process by the patient and something we, as professionals understand, but often may not explain properly, or might not even talk about during counseling.  


What is frustrating to the hearing aid user and family/friends, is the fact that if hearing aids were purchased to manage the hearing loss, why can’t the user now be able to hear, listen, and understand everything?  After all, don’t they all mean the same?  


As a result of the patient’s request, I put together the following short explanation of the differences in a way that I thought might be helpful to her, and maybe to others as well.  


Hearing, Listening, and Understanding

Hearing – Depends on physical condition of ears
✔ Ears are “open” 24 hours a day
  • Can “hear” sounds (traffic, water running, voices in background, etc.) but not “listen” to them
✔ Physical condition of ear can change in a number of ways, depending on the degree and type of physical damage
  • All sounds may be too soft
  • Only some will be too soft
  • Some may be too loud
✔ Can’t turn on and off when we want
Listening involves more than just physical condition of the ear
✔ Implies one is paying attention to what is heard
✔ Can turn on and off when want
  • All sounds may be too soft
  • Only some will be too soft
  • Some may be too loud
✔ Can have excellent hearing (physical), and not listen
  • With a loss, listening requires greater attention and more effort
Understanding (recognition) combines hearing and listening
Implies taking of proper action by comprehending what was heard
  • Example:  Foreign language – You may listen attentively, but may not be able to understand because it is not familiar
✔ One must learn what “new” sounds are and accept them before they will be understood

✔ Requirements:

  • Practice, time, and use of additional clues provided by the aids



**This article was originally published at Wayne’s World on January 9, 2012. Title image courtesy wikimedia commons